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Marius Neset Quartet & Karen Sharp Quartet

RNCM Theatre, 28 October 2012

This was a concert of deliberate contrasts.

In the first half there was Karen Sharp and her band, and they played some beautiful tunes, among them songs by Leonard Bernstein and Bill Evans, to a very high standard indeed.  Undoubtedly, it gave pleasure and was familiar territory to boot; you were in your comfort zone.  What I’ll keep forever from this performance is Steve Brown’s perpetually smiling face as he played drums, his enjoyment palpable.

The MC, Robert Buckland I think it was, described the outfit in the second half as ‘coming from a galaxy far, far away.’  And so, in a way, it proved.

Marius Neset is, in fact, Norwegian – he’s of the same generation as Magnus Carlsen – and the rest of his Band is from Sweden.  They are all extraordinary musicians.  Their music can probably best be described as avant-garde jazz but with a Scandinavian strangeness, a Nordic light, that’s all their own.

Earlier in the day, Marius Neset had given a talk and it was clear then that his conception of his instrument – the saxophone, in case you don’t know – and of music itself was pretty special.  And the performances that framed his talk showed that he could deliver on his vision.  But not even those performances could have prepared you for the concert to come.  Because this wasn’t simply weird or way-out there or wonderful, it was revelatory.  It was like watching the birth of a new species.  He is the Ryan Trecartin of jazz.  The future has arrived.

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